JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 19, 2016) – The 2016 season ended like it began for the ETSU Buccaneers – with an impressive win.
Just as he gave the Buccaneers a dramatic season-opening victory over Kennesaw State with a field goal in overtime back in September, sophomore placekicker JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tenn.) came through again with a game-winning kick as time expired, lifting the Bucs past 18th-ranked Samford 15-14 in Southern Conference play on Senior Day Saturday at Kermit Tipton Stadium. It was the Bucs first win over a ranked opponent since dropping No. 1 Georgia Southern 19-16 back on Oct. 27, 2001, inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
The Bucs, who fell behind 14-3 and scored 12 unanswered points to pick up the win, capped their second season since returning to the gridiron in 2015 with a 5-6 overall record (2-6 in the SoCon) and a pair of wins over teams that either are or were eventually ranked in the Top 25, as Kennesaw State is currently No. 22 in the nation. Meanwhile, Samford (7-4, 5-3) likely falls out of contention for a possible spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs with the loss.
Facing statistically the best offense in the SoCon, the ETSU defense came to play on this night and kept the Bucs in the game throughout. Forcing a fumble and allowing just one touchdown in the first half, the Bucs went to the halftime locker room down just 7-3. In addition, the ETSU offense did its part by putting together time-consuming drives and keeping the Bulldogs offense off the field. In all, the Bucs won time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 18:41, compared to 11:19 for Samford.
That defensive effort continued in the second half, as did the Bucs’ offensive patience and advantage in time of possession. By the end of the game, ETSU possessed the ball for over 41 minutes of game play – a new single-game record for the program – compared to just 18 minutes for the Bulldogs. Even more impressive, Samford had entered the game averaging 38.3 points and 469.3 yards a game offensively. On this night, they were held to just 14 points and 265 yards.
Individually, ETSU sophomore linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) led the way for the defense with 10 tackles, while also forcing a Samford fumble. On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) put together a strong performance, going 18-of-26 through the air for 238 and a touchdown, while also rushing for another 23 yards. For the night, Herink found seven different receivers, with juniors Dalton Ponchillia (Nashville, Tenn.) and Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va.), and sophomore Drake Powell (Clinton, Tenn.) collecting four receptions apiece.
HOW THEY SCORED
- Samford 7, ETSU 0: After holding the Bulldogs to three-and-out on their first offensive possession, the Bucs’ defense was unable to stymie Samford’s second drive. Going to the ground with tailback K’rondis Larry and thanks to three pass completions by quarterback Devlin Hodges, the Bulldogs went 89 yards in 11 plays and ultimately scored on a four-yard run by Roland Adams. The extra point was good and with 4:28 left in the first quarter, Samford led 7-0.
- Samford 7, ETSU 3: After back-to-back defensive stops, the Bucs took their fourth offensive possession of the game and drove 53 yards in 11 plays, taking 6:19 off the clock. The result of the drive was a 38-yard field goal by Jerman, and ETSU had cut the Bulldogs lead to four points with 8:57 left in the first half.
- Samford 14, ETSU 3: The Bulldogs benefitted from an unlucky play by the Bucs in the early part of the second half. On their first offensive play after the intermission, Herink rolled out for a pass, but as he went to throw, the ball slipped from his hand and was intercepted by Samford’s Shaheed Salmon, who returned it to the ETSU 14-yard line. One play later, K’rondis Landry took a delayed hand off and scampered in for the score. The extra point was good and with 13:17 left in the third quarter, the Bucs trailed 14-3.
- Samford 14, ETSU 9: ETSU stayed in the fight thanks to a pair of pressure-packed throws from Herink as the third quarter was coming to a close. The first came with the Bucs facing 4th down and needing 16 yards at the Samford 32-yard line. Herink found sophomore Powell on a crossing route for 17 yards to pick up the first down. Three plays later, after taking a sack and looking at a third-down-and-19 from the Bulldogs’ 24-yard line, Herink again came through with a 24-yard scoring strike to Ponchillia. The Bucs’ two-point conversion failed, but ETSU was back in the game trailing by five at 14-9.
- Samford 14, ETSU 12: The Bucs kept pressure on the Bulldogs on their next offensive possession, taking up most of the fourth quarter – 7:42 in total – and moving to the Samford 6-yard line. Unfortunately for the Bucs, a sack of Herink stymied the drive, but Jerman came through in the cold, windy conditions with a 39-yard field to bring the Bucs to within two points of the Bulldogs at 14-12 with 5:38 left in the regulation.
- ETSU 15, Samford 14: After the defense came through with yet another stop, Samford punted and the Bucs took over at their own 23-yard line with 3:36 left in regulation. After picking up a first down on an 11-yard pass from Herink to sophomore wide out Koby Kelley (Knoxville, Tenn.), the Bucs went to the air again on what appeared to be a short pass to Powell, but Samford’s cornerback went for the interception and missed, allowing Powell to race 27 yards to the Samford 37-yard line. Two plays later, Herink found Kelley again for 19 yards to the Samford 17. The Bucs gained another six yards over their next three plays, setting Jerman up for the game-winning kick from 28 yards out.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- ETSU out-gained Samford, 329 to 265, as the Bucs threw for 238 yards and ran for 91 … The 265 total offensive yards by the Bulldogs marked their second-lowest output of the season (257 at Central Arkansas), while it was the lowest total yards allowed by the Buccaneer defense this season … Samford’s 122 yards passing marked a season-low. The Bucs ran 21 more plays than the Bulldogs, 70-49.
- In the second half, ETSU held Samford to 49 offensive yards (28 rushing/21 passing), while the Bucs racked up 206 of total yards on offense (34 rushing/172 passing) … The Blue and Gold ran 40 plays in the second half, compared to the Bulldogs’ 16.
- In the fourth quarter, Herink was 6-of-8 with 100 yards passing, while hitting Powell for a 27-yard reception, Pritchard for a 26-yard strike and Kelley for a 19-yard catch.
- ETSU won the time of possession - 43:47 to 16:13, which set a new Buccaneer single-game record ... The previous record of 40:37 was set on Oct. 25, 1997 versus #16 Furman.
- The Buccaneer defense limited Samford to 2-of-10 on third down chances, while ETSU was 6-of-15 on third down (3-of-5 in the fourth quarter).
- ETSU has now won its last three season finales – Kentucky Wesleyan (42-27) in 2015 and The Citadel (16-13) in 2003.
- Today marked the first-ever win over Samford in program history … ETSU was 0-3 all-time against the Bulldogs.
- Dylan Weigel finished with 10 tackles … Weigel recorded double-digit tackles in his final four games of the season and totaled a team-leading 106 tackles in 2016 … Weigel forced his first fumble of the season in the second quarter.
- Sophomore defensive lineman Tremond Ferrell (Washington, Ga.) recorded five tackles and posted the fumble recovery.
- Weigel, Paul Hunter (Denton, Texas), Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.) and Alonzo Francois (Ooltewah, Tenn.) all registered a tackle for loss on Saturday.
- Sophomore punter Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.) landed three of his five punts inside the 20.
- Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jason Maduafokwa (Seymour, Tenn.) made his first career start on Saturday.
- With the Herink to Powell fourth-down conversion in the third quarter, the Bucs improved to 7-of-10 on fourth down attempts this season.
- Samford wide receiver Karel Hamilton entered the game averaging 10.7 receptions and 133 receiving yards per game ... He was held to four catches for 38 yards and zero touchdowns ... Hamilton led all FCS players with 14 touchdowns ... The 38 yards receiving marked a season-low for Hamilton.
- Bulldog quarterback Devlin Hodges entered the game averaging 359.4 passing yards, 32.8 completions, and over three touchdown passes per game on the season ... On Saturday, Hodges was limited to 14-of-22 passing for 122 yards and zero touchdowns ... Hodges was held to a season-low in completions and passing yards, while it marked the first time this season he did not record a passing touchdown.
- Today marked the final collegiate game for defensive backs Ryan Powers (Jupiter, Fla.) and Tavian Lott (D’Lo, Miss), wide receiver Chad Pritchard (Johnson City, Tenn.) and defensive lineman Royce Turnbull (Charlotte, N.C.) … The four seniors were recognized pregame on the field.
- Today marked the final game played in Kermit Tipton Stadium as ETSU opens its new on-campus stadium against Limestone on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.
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